An update on the so-called “deconstruction” of the U.S. Department of State, where the future of American diplomacy is still uncertain. How will a 30% budget cut impact the national interest?
Does Tillerson have the political clout to succeed?
Will reform lead to streamlined diplomacy?
Can we see the outlines of a Trump policy where soft power is ignored at the expense of hard, military might?
‘But as William Burns, a former deputy secretary of state and the president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, put it to me, “Beneath the surface, there’s nothing at all that’s normal.” Hard power and soft power are complementary. Cut out one and American leverage is lost. Wendy Sherman, an under secretary of state in the Obama administration, said, “Whether witting or not, this is not just the disruption of the State Department, it’s the destruction, and the minimization of the role of diplomacy in our national security.”’
Last March it appears that even though the “State Department was in disarray” it was still functioning at a moderate clip. Even so, it appeared that the pace had changed, with some calling it “lonely,” with “quiet hallways” and a lot of “sitting around and going home earlier than usual.”
What is motivating Tillerson’s demolition effort is anyone’s guess. He may have been a worldly CEO at ExxonMobil, but he had precious little experience in how American diplomacy works. Perhaps Tillerson, as a D.C. and foreign policy novice, is simply being a good soldier, following through on edicts from White House ideologues like Steve Bannon. Perhaps he thinks he is running State like a business. But the problem with running the State Department like a business is that most businesses fail—and American diplomacy is too big to fail.
What is clear, however, is that there is no pressing reason for any of these cuts. America is not a country in decline. Its economy is experiencing an unprecedented period of continuous economic growth, its technology sector is the envy of the world and the American military remains unmatched. Even now, under Trump, America’s allies and enduring values amplify its power and constrain its adversaries. America is not in decline—it is choosing to decline. And Tillerson is making that choice. He is quickly becoming one of the worst and most destructive secretaries of state in the history of our country.
Perhaps this is what Colum Lynch sees as “Trump’s Doctrine of Diplomatic Chaos,” where unpredictability is explained by UN Ambassador Nikki Haley as a strategic imperative–useful to negotiation efforts.
Not all gridlock resides in Washington, D.C.. Frustrated idealists and ambivalent realists share the same interest to understand why the United Nations functions as it does–and Somini Sengupta obliges with this brief yet succinct analysis:
The conflicts in Ukraine and Gaza, not to mention the war in Syria, have presented diplomats with emotional testimonies of civilian suffering, even alleged crimes against humanity. Yet the 15-member Council has been unable to end these conflicts.
The problem is not that the major world powers don’t care. It is that they care too much.